Survey finds that money, not romance, keeps some couples together

Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year, but according to a consumer survey conducted by Intrum, many Europeans say monetary worries mean they can’t afford to end an unwanted relationship.

It’s an unromantic, rather stark message that emerges this Valentine’s Day from the European Consumer Payment Report 2018, published by leading credit management agency Intrum. The annual survey of more than 24,000 people in 24 European countries found that 17 per cent of respondents agree with the statement that their financial situation has been a factor in them not ending a domestic relationship.

One in four Europeans say that money worries are an issue in their relationships.
One in four European say that money worries are an issue in their relationships.

Large differences between countries in Europe

By individual country, the report shows that in France, Spain, the UK and Greece, there are above average levels of agreement from those surveyed that finances have trapped them in a relationship: the statistics here were 23 per cent, 21 per cent, 19 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.

In contrast, 83 per cent of the survey respondents in Estonia disagreed with the idea that finances keep a bad relationship going, significantly higher than the overall European average of 67 per cent; only eight per cent of Estonian respondents actually agreed with the statement.

When it comes to responses by gender, the survey finds that more European men than women agree that finance worries have stopped them ending a relationship: 18 per cent versus 15 per cent.

"It’s a very real issue in many relationships,” says Stockholm-based psychologist and author Björn Hedensjö. “The inability to afford a place on your own is sometimes the only reason people stay together. A very uneven distribution of the household income can also strongly affect the power dynamic in the relationship, which in turn can cause all kinds of relationship problems."

Stockholm-based psychologist and author Björn Hedensjö
Stockholm-based psychologist and author Björn Hedensjö wouldn't have been surprised by even higher numbers.

More than one in seven say money was a factor in splitting up

On the other side of the coin, one in seven people, 14 per cent of the respondents, say that financial problems were a factor in them ending their relationship. But here the responses vary according to different age groups.

Personal finances are less of a consideration for those who are 65 years or older: just seven per cent of respondents in this age category say that financial issues have been a factor in the failure of a relationship. In contrast, almost a fifth (18 per cent) of both 18 to 24-year-olds and 25 to 34-year-olds say that money has been a cause of a relationship break-up. Here again, more men than women agree with this statement: 17 per cent versus 12 per cent.

Overall, one in four people say that money worries are an issue in their relationships. And speaking from professional experience, psychologist Hedensjö adds, “I wouldn't have been surprised by even higher numbers.”

Advice from the experts

So how should people deal with the financial imbalances that can cause so many problems?
“The best advice I can think of is to try to avoid complete financial dependency on your partner,” says Hedensjö. “It might work fine for a while but is not a recipe for a stable and happy relationship in the long run.”

Intrum’s Chief Brand and Communication Officer Anna Fall adds, “For many, being in debt can be a difficult situation which can impact private relationships. At Intrum, we talk to people who have different life situations every day.

“The core of our business is helping people out of debt, and our recommendation is to get in touch with us as early as possible, so that we can solve the case together and avoid relationships being affected by financial difficulties.”

About the European Consumer Payment Report 2018
The answers of 24 398 respondents, between the ages of 18-65 in 24 European countries, were collected in total. The survey featured questions concerning household finances and was conducted during September 2018.